CONSOLIDATED NATURAL RESOURCES ACT OF 2008 -- (Senate - April 10, 2008)
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Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I have listened patiently to what has been said. One of the things that has to be stated, if we want to change the rules of the Senate, that is fine, but it is important for the American people to know what a unanimous consent request is. This bill contains 26 separate pieces of legislation where on over four dozen of them we have had no objection whatsoever, ever. Not one time have we raised any objection. But a unanimous consent request says, No. 1, you agree with the legislation. No. 2, you don't think it should be amended. No. 3, you don't think the Senate ought to vote on it. We have a major difference of opinion about what priorities are and what they should be.
I heard the distinguished Senator from New Mexico talk about frustration. Who is watching out for the frustration a child born today, encompassing $400,000 of unfunded liabilities, is going to have when that bill comes due? Where is the worry about the frustration for future generations? People say this is noncontroversial. Let me tell you, it is controversial when you are talking about infringing on the property rights of people without their permission. That is controversial. We have a difference of opinion on that. We think heritage areas and the disclaiming of heritage area has no impact on property rights.
That is absolutely untrue. It does impact. Property rights are a real right guaranteed in this country. We are going to set up boards that will influence, with the money we give them, private property use and utilization without an equal influence by the private property owners. We do have a difference of opinion.
At the end of this fiscal year, September 30, the accrued actual debt on the books for this country will become $10 trillion. We are going to add $3,000--2,800 and some odd dollars--per man, woman, and child at the end of this year to the debt. People say it is noncontroversial. Four dozen of these are noncontroversial. But this idea that we have to authorize, it is either a wink and a nod, or we are totally dishonest with the American people. If we are authorizing it, we intend to spend the money. We wouldn't be authorizing it if we didn't intend to spend the money. My objections are not that we do the right things for protecting our parks or creating the right environments in our forests and ensuring that the great treasures of our country are not protected. I want to make sure they are available. But to claim, when we have a $9 billion deficit in terms of backlogged work in our parks right now, as documented by the U.S. Park Service, $9 billion of work that needs to get done that we can't get done, to say this isn't going to have any impact on it, it is going to have an impact. It is going to delay the maintenance on the very things we say we treasure. So what have we done? What are we doing?
We are having a discussion about a small area that supposedly doesn't cost much money. It hasn't been scored, but those things in it that have been scored, it is over $350 million per year, a third of a billion dollars. What are we talking about? This debate is about whether we face up to the priorities in front of us as a nation. It is not about being against parks. It is not about being against the process. It is about making sure somebody in this body is standing up thinking about the future finances of this country and what we are going to do to our children. This is another example of what I believe--and I know I am in the minority--is a misplaced priority. How do we justify it, when we own, as the Senator from New Mexico said, 30 percent--I thought it was 38.5 percent--of all the land in the country? When we are not taking care of the land we have, how do we justify adding more land? We added 90 million acres to Federal Government property in the last 8 years. That is 90 million acres that are taken off the property rolls of communities and States. We take it away. We control it, and then we don't take care of it. But now we are adding more. We are doing it more.
Let's talk about some of the issues. This is a noncontroversial bill is what we have heard. How about $2 million of our kids' money to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Robert Fulton and the Claremont? At a time when this year we are going to borrow $600 billion, we are going to spend $2 million on a celebration? Why don't we celebrate the fact that we are going to put our kids in debt more? That is what we should be celebrating, if we are so proud of this. How about $2 million to create a commission to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the voyage of the Champlain. Do we have $2 million to throw away? We are going to throw that away on something that is not important, considering where we are in this Nation and the debt and the heritage we are going to leave our children. You bet we have a difference of opinion.
The American people want us to start thinking in the long term, not the short term. Do we look good if we have done all these bills back home? You bet. We wink and nod and say: We are doing it. Either we are going to appropriate the money or we were dishonest with them in the first place. We are going to spend the money. How do we walk out of here and say: We got you what you wanted?
We do not really intend to spend the money--unless we really do intend to spend the money, so then it really does make a difference, and we cannot maintain what we have.
There was a very wise historian, his name was Alexander Tytler. This is attributed to him. I am not sure it is really his, but the words were spoken. They are not mine, but it is very apropos for where we are, not just on this issue; I am not a voice of frustration just on this issue. My colleagues know that. I think it is time for us to start thinking about the long-term in this country and not the short-term politically expedience that says we look good at home.
Here is what Tytler said: A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury. From that time on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits--we got you done what you want done at home; whether we can afford it or not does not matter, but we got it done--with the result that a democracy always collapses due to loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship.
That is the history of the world. We are contributing to our own demise as we think short-term political expediency so we can look good at home, so we can satisfy demands at home.
Will Durant said:
A great civilization is [never] conquered from without until it has destroyed itself [from] within.
We have now $79 trillion worth of unfunded liabilities that we are getting ready to lay on our kids and grandkids, and we are not thinking a thing about probably $1 billion with this bill of new additional expenditures for next year, if it gets appropriated. It is the price of doing business in Washington. We do not have that luxury anymore. We do not have the luxury of mortgaging the future of our children anymore.
Why is the dollar at a historic low right now? Is it because we are in a slowdown or a recession? Is that it? No. It does not have anything to do with it. It has to do with the world confidence in our ability to repay our debt and the debt the rest of the world sees coming to us, which comes out to, if you were born today, $400,000 over your lifetime. Now, how many of us have children or grandchildren who could absorb just the interest on $400,000? A few, but most of us could not do that.
So this debate is a philosophical debate. I am not worried about being a source of frustration in the Senate. I am worried about the future of our country, and if I create some scrapes and bruises on my way to wake us up to what the American people want us to do--which is think long-term, fix the structural problems, and quit pandering back to our individual desires in the State--this Congress has become a parochial Congress. It is more important to do what is right for your State than it is for what is right for the country. How dare us. That has nothing to do with our oath. None of us has our State mentioned in the oath we take when we accept this office.
So we are about to pass 62 pieces of legislation, none of which had a hearing until after they passed out of the committee--17 hearings post coming out of the committee. As to saying we have to meet this because it is bipartisan, it is a bipartisan failure to think about the future of this country and what is in the long-term best interests of the country, as we satisfy looking good at home to ensure our next election is put ahead of the next generation of this country.
I am not going to participate in that. I am going to continue to work to make sure any piece of legislation that comes to this floor is thinking about the long-term, not the short-term. If that creates ill will among my colleagues, I apologize in advance. I would much rather be remembered as somebody who was interested in protecting the future of our children than playing nice in the Senate. As Phil Gramm said: I didn't come here to make friends, and I haven't been disappointed.
The real fact is, what did we all come here for? We all came here with that in mind, to do what is best in the long-term interests of our country. It is important for us to be reminded when we are not doing that. There can be a difference of opinion about priorities. There cannot be a difference of opinion about the amount of trouble we are in. There is no difference of opinion in terms of trouble. It does not matter how we got here. The fact is, we are here. We are in trouble.
How is it that we put a delegate for an island territory in this bill that has 60,000 residents that we are going to put $5.6 million into over the next 3 years? That we are going to create another delegate--what does that have to do with natural resources and lands? How did that get in here?
We have added an intermodal transportation center in Trenton, ME. It authorizes the Federal Government to pay 40 percent of it, no matter what it costs. There is no limitation that this will be a competitively bid contract. No matter what it costs, we are on the hook for 40 percent of whatever it costs. And we are on the hook for 85 percent of what it will cost to run it thereafter. The only problem is, there are three other visitor centers within walking distance of this one. But we wanted to do it.
I could go on and on and on. The fact is, this debate is not about process. It may be to you, but it is not to me. This debate, for me, is whether we are going to change our behavior at every point to start thinking about the long-term future of this country.
I have the greatest respect for Chairman Bingaman. He has been an absolute gentleman to me in every way in every dealing. But we have a philosophical difference. He is charged to move bills out, to get things done. Most of them that have no cost he will readily agree I have had no objection to. He knows that. We have not tried to block those. But they are combined with the other bills because they know that is a force to create the votes, to get things that might be somewhat more controversial spending. That is his job. I understand that.
I have no ill will toward anyone. What I have an ill will for--and when I leave the Senate, what I will take to my grave--is not being good enough to convince us to do what we swore an oath to do, and that is to think long-term, think what is best for our country, not what is best for our State; think what is best for our children, not what is best for us; think what is best for our country, not what is best for our party; think what is best for America. We are losing. Consequently, we see it happening in our country.
So it is time to really clarify what this debate is about. It is really not about a lands bill; it is about the philosophy where we continue to work and run like a loose barge in the Mississippi River that does not have a tug associated with it. Are we going to do that? Because that is what is happening.
One amendment I am going to be offering just says we ought to know what things cost. How much land do we have and how much does it cost to have it? We are going to have it objected to, not because it is not common sense but because we are afraid the whole package might not get accepted if something common sense is in it like knowing how much our land costs us, knowing how much land we have, having an inventory, and making a judgment, a metric about what we are doing. Nobody is thinking the big picture. We are thinking the political picture. So here is the amendment. It is not going to go anywhere, most likely, but it absolutely makes common sense that we would do that, that we would know all the properties we own.
We have another amendment that is going to say that citizens have to give their approval when somebody comes onto their land who does not own their land--just basic property rights saying: If somebody is going to set up a heritage area, they ought to get permission to come onto private land, if it is your land and somebody is coming on it. We take that right away in heritage areas. It is gone. They do not have to do it. It is a commonsense amendment that says if you own land, you ought to have the right that is guaranteed you under the Constitution to have your land protected. It is your land.
We have so much unwanted property where all the land agencies want a way to get rid of it, but yet they cannot. They cannot. They do not even have the money to get rid of it. So there is an amendment that says: Let's take 1 percent of the cost of this bill and allow the different agencies to get rid of the excess properties they have. It is not complicated.
The other thing is, we are going to offer an amendment requiring that citizens within a national heritage area are informed of the designation before it happens. If we are going to pass a law that is going to impact somebody's private property, shouldn't we tell them ahead of time? Shouldn't they have notice? Shouldn't they have the rights guaranteed to them under the Constitution?
I have spoken enough, but I think under the guise of the lands bill I have explained the real problem. There is a difference of philosophy. I will not stop fighting until we start thinking about the long-term problems facing this country.
I will not stop objecting to spending money that we know we intend to spend. We are just playing the game that: Oh, it is not an appropriation. Well, almost 30 percent of the appropriations are not authorized. So you cannot have it both ways. A third of the money we appropriate under the appropriations process is not authorized to begin with. So authorizations actually do not mean anything, do they? Or do they? Yes, they do, because they are not going to get appropriated, or they are, and if they are, we ought to be talking about real money that is going to be spent.
I want to talk for a minute about the backlogs in our parks because I think if the American people knew it, they would not stand for it until we did something. The National Park Service faces, right now, a $9 billion backlog. That is their number. That is not Tom Coburn's number. That is their number, a $9 billion backlog. With this legislation, they are going to take on more responsibility with no increased funds, which means the backlog is going to grow.
The Facilities Management Division of the National Park Service reveals there are at least 10 States where National Park Service maintenance backlogs exceed $100 million per park--$100 million per park. Twenty States have facilities with deferred maintenance exceeding $50 million. That does not include road maintenance, which is far higher. None of these numbers include the road maintenance we have not supplied the money for either.
They maintain 1,466 buildings built before 1900 but do not have the money to maintain them. They have 4,975 buildings constructed before 1950 but do not have the money to maintain them. They have 2,500 fixed assets--2,500 fixed assets--they do not want but this committee will not create a way for them to get rid of. They are still spending money on 2,500 facilities--2,500 different buildings--that they do not want, that they spend money on every year, that they are not using, but they have to keep it up.
The National Park Service has 31 sites in California alone. They have a State backlog, in California parks alone, of $584 million, exclusive of any roadwork. California is home to many of our treasures: Yosemite, Golden Gate, Sequoia.
New York national parks: They face a $347 million backlog--$347 million--home to Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty. The Statue of Liberty has a maintenance backlog of $185 million, work that needs to be done on it. We are not doing it.
National parks in Wyoming: a $205 million maintenance backlog. That is Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Devils Tower. Yellowstone has a $130 million backlog. It is one of our great treasured western assets. Everybody who visits there has total enjoyment from it, and yet it has a $130 million backlog which we have not addressed.
There are no increased authorizations for maintenance backlogs.
Glacier National Park in Montana, a backlog of $400 million; Washington, DC, home to our monuments, a $371-million maintenance backlog; New Mexico, $41 million; Arizona, $192 million. The National Parks Conservation Association said this: The average budget shortfall among 100 park units is 32 percent. In other words, we are supplying two-thirds of what they need to maintain their parks adequately, and with this bill we are going to be adding to all that and other lands other things they are going to have to be doing because of this bill, but we are not going to address the real needs.
Each of the new projects in this bill will siphon funds away one way or the other, directly or indirectly, from these important projects. Are we good stewards if we add things to be stewards of when we are not caring for the things we have already?
There was a wise man who once said: He who is faithful with small things will be faithful with big things. I would surmise and put forward to this body that we have not been good stewards with what we have already. Yet we are going to add to them.
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Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, this is a straightforward amendment. It requires an annual report of the Federal Government detailing the amount of property the Federal Government owns and the cost of Government and landownership to taxpayers.
This is just a small chart that shows the amount of land the Federal Government owns. As my colleagues can see, two-thirds of the Western United States is owned by the Federal Government in one form or another. It recognizes all of the core land, the parkland, the forest land, the heritage areas that are not--it doesn't recognize the heritage areas that we don't own, but it does recognize all the land holdings. Nobody has a metric on what we own. Not any one agency knows what we own in total, nor does anybody know what it costs us to own it, nor does anybody know what it costs the communities for us to own it because it has been taken off the tax rolls.
Each year, the Office of Management and Budget would be required to issue a public report detailing Federal landownership. The report would specifically include the total amount of land in the United States and the percentage that is owned by the Federal Government; the percentage of all U.S. property that is controlled by the Federal Government--not necessarily owned, but controlled--the total cost of operating and maintaining Federal real property, including land, buildings and structures; a list of all Federal property that is unused and vacant--because why should we continue to maintain properties that are unused and vacant--including all buildings and structures; and the estimated cost of the maintenance backlog at each Federal agency with regard to their land holdings.
What this will do is give the taxpayers some transparency about the real nature of what we are doing. We are going down an alley blindly. We don't know what the cost is. We don't know what the total is. We certainly don't know what we are creating when we add more to it when we don't know the metrics on what we have already.
One of the things we need is greater accountability on the maintenance. It is strange to me that we can do what we are doing with this bill and not already know this information. Why would we not know what our total land holdings are and what their costs are? There are no requirements under current law to require public disclosure of the amount of land controlled by the Federal Government or the cost of such occupation to the taxpayers. There was an Executive order issued in 2004 that would require some of it to become publicly available, but what this amendment says is it all should be. It is an inventory. Every other organization, including the States, know what they own, and they know the cost to manage what they own. It is called management accountability. Transparency is the thing that leads to accountability.
When the President directly required the Office of Management and Budget to release a high-level report giving a picture of property ownership between 2004 and 2005, the Government decided to stop releasing the information on public domain lands. Wonder why that is. What happened is 90 percent of the lands aren't reported. So this amendment would legally require the Government to release information on all land it owns, how much it costs to maintain, and require the Government to track the growth of Federal landownership around the country.
This isn't hard to do. Once you have the database, all you do is add and subtract. The first year it will be tough. Every year after that it would not be hard at all. It is a computer program.
Governments track the property that individuals own. The Government therefore should disclose the same information about the land holdings that it has. The Government knows what land we own. Why shouldn't the American people know what land the Government owns? It is just common sense. If we want to manage our resources and manage our properties, then we have to know what it is and what it costs, but we don't. We don't use zero-based budgeting. Whatever they spent last year, they just ask for more. At the end of the year, if it is not all spent, they make sure they spend it; otherwise, they are liable to get a cut. So we are not putting the money in based on what we know the need is; we are putting the money in based on a historical record that is obviously failing to maintain our national parks.
I will discontinue with any further debate on this amendment and yield to the chairman of the committee. I would just say commonsense knowledge about what we own and what it costs us is something the American taxpayer ought to have, and to vote against this for some reason because we can't goes back to the same philosophical argument. We are going to have the short-term excuse for the long-term problem, and we are never going to get out of this hole.
I yield the floor.
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Mr. COBURN. I want the chairman of the committee to know that we worked very closely with OMB as we developed this amendment. This is not a significant cost because they have been gathering this data to a certain extent already. I would gladly take a second-degree amendment to offset any sensitive data that might be incurred so it would not be made available.
There is no question there is some cost to it, but the yearly cost is minimal, and OMB has already stated that. The cost of establishing it, yes, I agree, it would be hard. But what my colleague has said is we really don't want to manage all of the properties because we don't want to know. That is the important thing, that we can't directly manage them unless we do that.
So I yield the floor.
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Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, the American Farm Bureau and American farmers and ranchers had endorsed all of these amendments at an earlier time. I assume they would again, because it is the same language that was used in the past. Today, the National Taxpayers' Union endorsed these as commonsense freedoms for us.
This amendment is pretty straightforward. It says that if the Government wants to take your land, you ought to be able to say, yes, I agree or you ought to be able to say no. What this bill does is it authorizes the Federal Government--they can still acquire new lands, but if it is going to have an impact on your land--not their land but your land--the citizens ought to get a vote on it. It is called real transparency in government and real participatory democracy.
A lot of Americans are concerned about the excessive Government influence over their land. We can say they are not, but they are. People in my State of Oklahoma, in New Mexico, New York, and every other State have great concerns about property rights. This amendment is intended to address those concerns. It simply requires the citizens affected by Federal Government land grabs, or heritage areas, or others where we are talking about private lands being impacted, to have a vote, to have a say in the matter. It authorizes the Departments of Agriculture and Interior to continue to acquire land by purchase or exchange. It will not affect that.
The amendment would only apply to situations involving Federal eminent domain, when the Government takes property without the consent of the owner, or State and local governments cede private land to the Federal Government. The decision to cede property to the Federal Government may be voluntary by the State and local governments, but such a decision impacts the whole community. So all residents of an area, therefore, should have a voice in the decision to turn over public property that is controlled by bureaucrats in DC.
Do you realize that in all of our Western States, any single bureaucrat has more control in that State than the Governor of the State, where they own the majority of the land? Their implied power is greater than the highest elected official in the State. What they say goes, because it is the Federal Government. So whether it is a park ranger or forest ranger or manager of a forest or the BLM, what they say has more power than what the chief executive of any of those States says. When we look at this, we are saying if the Federal Government is going to take something by eminent domain, the people it will impact should get a chance to say yea or nay.
This goes back to the concept that we have a real right to own and hold property in this country. That is something many countries don't offer their citizens. We ought to be about protecting it at every level.
This amendment would involve local residents in Government decisions about their neighborhoods and communities. Sam Adams profoundly questioned, ``What liberty can there be where property is taken away without consent?'' What liberty is there when your property is taken away without consent or impacted without your consent or your zoning ordinance, because some bureaucracy from Washington funded through a heritage area decided what the zoning ordinances are going to be and has millions of dollars to move it, to your detriment, the private owner of property. What liberty is there when property rights are taken away? This amendment ensures both liberty and consent. It is very straightforward. It doesn't affect Federal transportation projects, national defense, or homeland security.
Delegating property decisions is not unusual. Eminent domain has been exercised through both legislation and legislative delegation. It is usually delegated to another government body. But the power may be delegated to private corporations, as we saw in Connecticut, such as public utilities, railroads, and bridge companies.
This amendment will delegate the final decision to the property holders who are being impacted--real property rights. If we agree as a majority, it happens; if we disagree, it doesn't.
The Supreme Court has approved the widespread use of the power of eminent domain in conjunction with private companies to facilitate urban renewal, for low-cost housing, for deteriorated housing, and the promotion of values, as well as economic development. In Berman v. Parker, a unanimous Court observed:
The concept of the public welfare is broad and inclusive. The values it represents are spiritual as well as physical, aesthetic, as well as monetary. It is within the power of the legislature to determine that the community should be beautiful as well as healthy, spacious, as well as clean, well-balanced, as well as carefully patrolled.
This ever-expanding government power essentially allows Congress and unelected bureaucrats for any reason to take private property from citizens with little, if any, recourse. What liberty when property rights are not preserved?
This amendment is designed to provide some check on the ever-growing expansion on private property rights within this country.
With that, I yield the floor.
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Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, this is another straightforward, what I believe most Americans would agree with, commonsense amendment. It says citizens within a national heritage area are informed of the designation and that governing officials must receive permission to enter private property. It is simple.
If I am in a heritage area, what happens often now is those who are empowered by the heritage area stake and survey your land, do all these things without your permission to enter your land--your land, not their land, your land. What we do is we broadly give the ability to violate property rights through the heritage area laws so people can access private property without permission. If I am wrong about that, then this amendment would cause absolutely no harm. But the fact is, I am right about it.
This amendment reestablishes the right of private property owners to control who goes on their land, when they go on their land, and what they are doing with their land. It reaffirms that if you have ownership, it is your land, and it does not take that right of a property owner away because it happens to be in a heritage area.
More and more heritage area designations are being made with little knowledge of the landowners involved. S. 2739 establishes three new heritage areas and extends the authorization and funding of several existing national heritage areas.
There is no requirement for the Federal Government to notify the individual within the area of its designation or its meaning. If we are going to have national heritage areas--and I agree at points they are great--do we not have an obligation to tell the landowner their land is getting ready to be subjected to all the parameters associated with a national heritage area? Do we not have the right and the obligation to ensure their property rights are protected as they are brought into a national heritage area?
I believe the Constitution says we ought to do this, we ought to restore what was already there. What is liberty without the rights of property?
I yield back the remainder of my time on this amendment.
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Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, in response, I wish to take a moment and read what three experts say about what the Senator from New Mexico said.
James Burling, principal property rights attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation:
The so-called protections for private property are largely symbolic; so long as regulators can browbeat landowners into becoming ``willing sellers'' we will continue to see the erosion of fee simple property ownership in rural America. With the influx of federal funding, the regulatory pressure on landowners to sell will, in many cases, be insurmountable. The legacy we will leave to future generations will not be the preservation of our history, but the preservation of a facade masquerading as our history subverted by the erosion of the rights that animated our history for the first two centuries of the Republic.
Joe Waldo, president of the Virginia property rights law firm Waldo and Lyle, said this:
The bill before Congress has nothing to do with a ``heritage trail'' but will result in a ``trail of tears'' for those least able to stand up for their property rights. This is no more than an effort to overreach by the federal Government with regulations that will restrict homeowners, farmers and small business people in the use of their property.
I ask unanimous consent, because of time limitations, to have printed in the Record the rest of these comments.
There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:
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Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, here is what I would say in response to the chairman's comment. It is not unreasonable to have somebody who does not own your land, has no real business on your land, ask permission to come on your land. That is an absolute subrogation of the rights guaranteed under the Constitution which we are now embracing and say it is fine to not have to get permission. That is not what comes with property rights under the Constitution. If our defense is we do not believe in the Constitution and the rights of private property rights, then I would say we are misguided in what we are doing.
This is a simple way of saying, if we are going to have heritage areas and if I am a private property owner in a heritage area and you want to come on my property and survey, you ought to have to get my permission. You should not be able to come on my land without permission to do so.
The fact is, example after example--and I will submit additionally an article from the Nation magazine on examples of exactly what happens in heritage areas to private property rights. It is called ``An Ugly Heritage.'' I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record this article.
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Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, this amendment requires 1 percent of the new spending authorized in this bill to be used to dispose of excess, unused, and unneeded Federal property to offset some of the cost of the bill.
What we know is we have a tremendous backlog in our parks. We have a tremendous backlog in almost every land ownership we have. We have tremendous maintenance needs in the Forest Service and tremendous maintenance needs in BLM. We are suffering to care for what we have.
All this amendment says is take 1 percent--they listed 6,500 different items they want to get rid of--and use the money to help them get rid of them so they do not continue to spend money maintaining what they don't want and don't need. At a minimum, this bill authorizes $380 million of new spending, which only represents a fraction when we actually see what will happen. We will track this. My staff will track the actual spending that comes out of this bill in terms of appropriations so we will have it for historical reference. My amendment says to take 1 percent for use to get rid of these items and then take them away. When we have gotten rid of the excess items, we would not use the money to do that and that money will go to maintain the public parks we all value so much.
It will help offset the hundreds of millions of dollars of new spending in the 2,000 property assets that in the Park Service alone have been slated for disposal but cannot be sold off solely due to the lack of funding to get rid of them.
So all this does is it directs some authorization and says: Park Service, take these 2,000 things, here is some money, get rid of them--the things you want to get rid of. And everybody agrees we should get rid of them. They haven't because they don't have the money because they have to go through all these various steps under the Federal Government's property rights legislation. But we say to them: Here is the money, so you don't continue to spend money on that, and instead you continue to spend money against this $9 billion backlog in our national parks.
What this does is it allows them to get rid of assets they no longer need. This gives them a way and the funds to do that. It allows them to truly dispose of what they want to dispose of.
With that, I yield the floor.
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Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, this letter shows a cost of $320 million for these bills over the next 5 years. So this is the Congressional Budget Office. This isn't my paper, this is theirs.
I will spend a few minutes, and then I will yield back my time because I know people want to get to some votes.
Mr. DOMENICI. Mr. President, will the Senator yield for a question?
Mr. COBURN. Absolutely.
Mr. DOMENICI. Doesn't that letter say ``if appropriated''?
Mr. COBURN. Assuming appropriation. Yes, it does.
Mr. DOMENICI. That means if it is not appropriated, it doesn't cost anything.
Mr. COBURN. If it is not appropriated. But we are not passing these bills under the assumption they are not going to be appropriated. We are passing these bills under the assumption they will be appropriated.
As a matter of fact, the promise is made as we pass this. And either it is a hollow promise you are sending back home so you can say, yes, I did this, and lie to your constituents, or we are going to appropriate the money. It is one or the other. So either we are dishonest with whom we are telling we are doing something for or we absolutely intend to appropriate it. There isn't any other option.
I will finish up by saying this. Obviously, the senior Senator from New Mexico did not hear my earlier comments. We are in tremendous economic straits in the long term. This debate is not about the lands bill. It is about will we change the philosophy, will we honor our oath, and will we start doing what is right in the long term for those who come after us. The heritage we have embraced in this country is one of sacrifice--one generation sacrifices so the next has opportunity. If we keep doing this without regard--we don't know how much we are spending; we don't know how much the monthly costs are; we are not taking care of the parks as we should because we do not have an idea; we have a hodgepodge; we have a barge floating down the river without a tug on it--we are going to make the problem worse. I will remind my colleagues, the true accounting of this year's estimate is a $607 billion deficit. That is over $2,000 for every man, woman and child in this country. Every child born today in this country inherits an unobligated obligation they will have to pay, that they got no benefit from, of $400,000.
Am I frustrating the Senators from New Mexico? You bet. Are our children worth it? You bet. I am not going to stop. I am going to stand and say we are going to think long term, we are going to start protecting property rights, we are going to start thinking about our children, and we are not going to give up because we get lectured because we are not doing it the way we have always done it. The way we have always done it has us bankrupt. It is time for a change. Republicans and Democrats alike, our children are worth it.
With that, I yield the floor.
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